In the days of early European settlement, there was a channel linking the harbour with a lagoon known as Basin Lake. The locals were keen to turn the lagoon into a dock, until the 1855 earthquake saw that plan left high and rather dry!
The earthquake raised Te Aro flats by two metres, leaving the lagoon resembling a swamp and the locals at a loss, until they seized upon the idea of an area for recreational activities – in particular, popular English pursuits like cricket and rugby.
The local governing body (which would eventually become Wellington City Council) backed the proposal and, with the help of inmates from Mt Cook Prison, the area was drained and levelled. By 1866, the Basin Reserve was officially recognised as the new capital’s main cricket ground.
A crowd watching a cricket match in the Basin Reserve in 1884
Nearby Dock Street became the more suitably named Rugby Street, while the streets either side of the former stream were named Kent Terrace and Cambridge Terrace after Queen Victoria’s father and uncle respectively. Native shrubs and trees were planted where the stream once ran.
The first game of cricket was played on the Basin Reserve in 1868 but the grounds weren’t of a high standard, reportedly dotted with stones and thistles. A number of players were injured, and the umpire later apologised for the conditions.
Things have improved drastically since those early days, and the Basin Reserve has become one of the most popular cricket grounds in the world. The pavilion is now a registered Historic Place, and the Basin Reserve itself has been a registered Historic Area since 1998.
Walkway between Cambridge and Kent Terrace circa 1890
Soon, we’ll be starting a consultation on upgrades to the Reserve, but rest assured it will remain a haven for lovers of the game – an 1884 Deed of Conveyance states the reserve is to be “forever used for the purposes of a cricket and recreation ground by the inhabitants of the City of Wellington”.
We are dedicated to conserving, restoring, protecting, and caring for Wellington's heritage-listed buildings and objects. Find out more about our Built Heritage Incentive Fund.
Images courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library.